By Winnie Ma
High school and the college application process often send pre-collegiettes searching far and wide for information and advice, but many don't think to visit one unassuming place right on campus for help: the counselor’s office. Your high school guidance counselor is not just there to help you pick classes; she’ll also be able to give you a vast amount of information about topics ranging from local college fairs to scholarships.
"Beyond knowledge of schools, training and financial assistance, experienced school counselors have learned from the shared experiences of hundreds and thousands of graduates," says Tom Dezell, author of "Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naive Job Seeker." "They can probably answer just about any question."
Before you begin asking your counselor questions, however, Dezell suggests that you give the counselor some ideas about what you want to do after graduation. "This will give the counselor ideas on where to start," he says. "Experienced counselors can recommend courses of action for any situation, including uncertainty."
To make it easier to start a conversation with your counselor, check out these six useful questions that you should ask your counselor before you graduate!
1. How does our school compare to others in terms of test scores and reputation?
This is a question you should ask when trying to decide which colleges to apply to so you can gauge your chances of acceptance. Who better to ask than your counselor?
“The counselors will know how various schools perceive one's school based on how other grades have fared in applying,” Dezell says. Your counselor will be able to give you a good idea of how your school compares to others and explain how this plays into your college application process.
2. Which specific grade and test requirements are required to get into a given college?
We've all heard stories of students with low GPAs who have gotten into good colleges. We've also heard stories of students with really high GPAs who didn't get into the same colleges. So it's no wonder that it can be hard to determine whether or not your grades are good enough.
Luckily, counselors usually have access to historical data on grades (and test scores) of students who have gotten into a given school, which can help you gauge your own chances. "Another thing to ask about is what types of testing various schools will require, such as achievement tests, as well as whether they put more stock in the SAT or ACT test," Dezell says. Since different schools may require or put emphasis on different tests, it's always a good idea to double-check.
3. Are there any college fairs happening nearby?
With so many different colleges to choose from, it's hard to know where to begin looking. A great place to start is visiting local college fairs, where you’ll be able to browse a large number of colleges in one place, get information and chat it up with representatives from the colleges. "Making personal contacts with admissions staff gives you a point of contact to help guide you through the process," Dezell says.
John Carpenter, author of "Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College Admissions," suggests asking your counselor about this during your sophomore or junior year. You'll be on your way to narrowing down your college list!